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Posts from — November 2011

Gerald North on Climate Modeling Revisited (re Climategate 2.0)

 “If the models are as flawed as critics say … you have to ask yourself, ‘How come they work?’”

- Gavin Schmidt [NASA], quoted in David Fahrenhold, “Scientists’ Use of Computer Models to Predict Climate Change is Under Attack,” Washington Post, April 6, 2010.

 “[Model results] could also be sociological: getting the socially acceptable answer.”

 - Gerald North (Texas A&M) to Rob Bradley (Enron), June 20, 1998.

 The above quotation by NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt suggests that quite remarkable progress has been made with climate models in recent years. Such must be the case given the verdict by leading climate scientists that climate models were not nearly ready for prime time just a decade ago.

But what do climate scientists really believe behind closed doors? Will they no longer express their innermost thoughts in emails or in fear that ‘the cause’ of climate alarm/forced energy transformation will be compromised?

Climategate 2.0: Model Quotations

<0850> [Tim] Barnett:  “[IPCC AR5 models] clearly, some tuning or very good luck involved.  I doubt the modeling world will be able to get away with this much longer.”

<5066> [Gabriele] Hegerl:[IPCC AR5 models] So using the 20th c for tuning is just doing what some people have long suspected us of doing [...] and what the nonpublished diagram from NCAR showing correlation between aerosol forcing and sensitivity also suggested.”

<4443> [Phil] Jones:Basic problem is that all models are wrong – not got enough middle and low level clouds.”

<1982> [Ben] Santer:  “There is no individual model that does well in all of the SST and water vapor tests we’ve applied.”

[Jagadish] Shukla/IGES: ["Future of the IPCC", 2008] It is inconceivable that policymakers will be  willing to make billion-and trillion-dollar decisions for adaptation to the projected regional climate change based on models that do not even describe and simulate the processes that are the building blocks of climate variability.

Gerald North Quotations

Here are some quotations from Dr. Gerald North of Texas A&M, certainly a distinguished climate scientist, made during his consulting era with Enron Corp. [Read more →]

November 30, 2011   6 Comments

Climategate 1.0/2.0 Did Not Begin With Climate: Revisiting Neo-Malthusian Intolerance

Michael Mann: “I gave up on Judith Curry a while ago. I don’t know what she thinks she’s doing, but it’s not helping the cause.”

Phil Jones: “I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process.”

The above emails are representative of the sickly fare of a group of physical scientists who set out to change the world from one of open-ended economic growth to one of economic constraint via international carbon planning. The good news is that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gatekeepers have once again been exposed by the e-mail release of last week, now known the world over as Climategate 2.0.

Having conversations like this is way beyond the bounds of scholarship or decent inquiry. We have heard of market failure and government failure–we need the term academic failure to describe scientists behaving badly.

For students of neo-Malthusianism (alarmism in different dimensions that began with Robert Thomas Malthus’s An Essay on Population in 1798), Climategate 1.0 and 2.0 continue a trend line. To really appreciate the desperation of climate alarmists in the face of contimuing anomolies, theoretical and empirical, context is required. That context is the failed worldview of modern neo-Malthusianism, which has promoted fear after fear with an intolerant, smartest-guys-in-the-room, above-the-rules mentality.

Remember the “population bomb” where many millions would die in food riots? Well, obesity turned out to be the real problem.

Remember the Club of Rome’s resource scare? In 1972, 57 predictions of exhaustion were made regarding 19 different minerals. All either have been falsified or will be.

Remember the global-cooling scare promoted by, among others, the Obama administration’s science czar, John Holdren? (Yes, global cooling was a big deal, although it was not a “consensus.”)

And all of the above doom merchants were uber-confident and still are loath to admit they were ever wrong. Holdren, for example, has not disowned his prediction that as many as one billion people could die by 2020 from (man-made) climate change. That’s nine years, folks.

Climategate/Climate McCarthyism

Intolerance rules in the global warming scare. Read the new flaming emails from the principals of Climategate. Read about Joseph “Climate McCarthyism” Romm by his critics on the Left.  Read the words of (non-Climategater) Michael Schlesinger, who lost his cool against New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin. [Read more →]

November 29, 2011   4 Comments

Windpower’s PTC: Secondary to State Mandates

Major wind projects are being cancelled or put on hold with waning public and private support. In recent weeks,

  • Wind developer Terra-Gen terminated plans to build its Horseshoe Wind Farm in Illinois;
  • NextERA suspended the permitting process for a 150-megawatt project in South Dakota; and
  • Iberdrola announced its Desert Wind Energy Project in North Carolina was delayed and might be scrapped altogether.

In each case, company officials blamed current market conditions and the inability to secure a long-term power contract with area utilities.

PTC In Review

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) insists the industry is at risk of a slow-down if Congress does not act quickly to extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC), the federal incentive most often credited for market growth in the wind sector. The PTC expires at the end of 2012. [1]

But if the PTC were to expire, the damage would be less than what the AWEA claims.The industry has clearly grown addicted to the production tax credit, but our findings suggest that attributing market activity to the PTC is overly simplistic and fails to consider other crucial (government) factors driving wind development in the U.S.

The PTC was established by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 to stimulate use of renewable technologies for power generation by providing a production-based credit for the first 10 years of project operations. Initially set at 1.5¢/kWh, the credit is adjusted annually for inflation and today stands at 2.2¢/kWh. [Read more →]

November 28, 2011   9 Comments

Chevron CEO: “The Imperative of Affordable Energy” (Moral substance trumps ‘green’ form)

“It’s time to move the debate past the dogmatic view that carbon dioxide is evil and toward a world view that accepts the need for energy that is cheap, abundant and reliable.”

- Robert Bryce, “Five Truths About Climate Change,” Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2011.

“Every [energy] policy objective should be viewed through the lens of affordability.”

- John S. Watson, Chairman and CEO, Chevron Corporation
Remarks at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, D.C., October 19, 2011.

Chevron CEO John Watson delivered a major address last month in Washington, D.C. that reorients energy sustainability from controversial neo-Malthusian notions toward consumer affordability and reliability. As such, it marks an end to the ‘apologetic’ era launched by BP’s John Browne in his 1997 Stanford University speech, which proclaimed that fossil fuels were problematic in relation to anthropogenic climate change. The moral high ground of consumerism also points to market capitalism in place of political capitalism.

Watson’s speech follows verbatim with subtitles added.

This is one of those places in our nation’s capital where serious minds turn to serious matters. The spirit of the Institute is to take the long view, to look past election cycles to the fundamentals of good policy, in this country and beyond. That’s an attitude that serves us well in any place and time, and certainly right now, in this fourth year of low economic growth, high unemployment and many other challenges.

This room is filled with people who spend a lot of time analyzing these problems, and advocating policy prescriptions to deal with them. And few policy issues are more contentious than energy.

There’s a reason for that. When it comes to energy policy today, we’re talking past one another. We all want a secure source that
minimizes adverse environmental impacts. But we’re failing to be clear about what our central priority ought to be among our energy objectives.

Affordable Energy

Today, I’d like to share what I believe that priority should be. I submit to you that affordable energy is the priority that should underpin all of our actions. Every policy objective should be viewed through the lens of affordability.

To make the case, think back over the last 150 years. We’ve seen the greatest advancements in living standards in recorded history because we have developed abundant, affordable energy. Light, heat and mobility have been made available to billions of people.

Agriculture has been mechanized, freeing populations to spend time developing other industries and toiling less for the very basics of life.

The evolution of energy supply over that time period has been just as stunning. As late as 1910, about a quarter of all U.S. farmland was still devoted to feeding horses used for transportation. Today, we use half as much land for all of our roads and highways, oil pipelines, refineries and wells combined.

Since Edison switched on his first generators in 1882, the average price of a kilowatt hour of electricity has fallen almost without interruption. Markets have driven a diverse portfolio of affordable energy sources that is anchored by oil, natural gas and coal, but also includes nuclear, hydropower and other renewables.

And we’re using our energy more efficiently. It takes 60 percent less energy today to produce a dollar of GDP than it did in 1949.

Affordable energy supports the very foundation of American life. Americans love their mobility, whether for business or pleasure. The population has roughly doubled since 1950, but gasoline consumption has quadrupled, even as gas mileage has improved. And we’re flying more. U.S. airlines use about 80 percent more fuel today than when I was in college, even as they have became more fuel efficient. [Read more →]

November 25, 2011   2 Comments

Thanksgiving & Capitalism

“The true meaning of Thanksgiving … is the triumph of Capitalism over the failure of Collectivism in all its forms. In light of America’s current political debates over health care and energy, involving 25 percent of our economy, the message of Thanksgiving is more timely than ever.” – Professor Richard Ebeling

In good economic times or bad, Thanksgiving is when Americans gather with their families and friends and enjoy the most special meal of the year. The event remembers those early Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the uncharted ocean from Europe to make a new start in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

What is less appreciated is that Thanksgiving also is a celebration of the birth of free enterprise in America.

The English Puritans, who left Great Britain and sailed across the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620, were not only escaping from religious persecution in their homeland. They also wanted to turn their back on what they viewed as the materialistic and greedy corruption of the Old World.

In the New World, they wanted to erect a New Jerusalem that would not only be religiously devout, but be built on a new foundation of communal sharing and social altruism. Their goal was the communism of Plato’s Republic, in which all would work and share in common, knowing neither private property nor self-interested acquisitiveness.

Collectivism Tried and Abandoned

What resulted is recorded in the diary of Governor William Bradford, the head of the colony. The colonists collectively cleared and worked land, but they brought forth neither the bountiful harvest they hoped for, nor did it create a spirit of shared and cheerful brotherhood. [Read more →]

November 23, 2011   6 Comments

“No New Energy Subsidies: Oppose NAT GAS Act!” (free market voices rise up against tax-code politicking)

Call it the iron law of political economy: Government goes to those who show up.

The good news is that limited-government groups are showing up. And they are not pro-industry (such as the natural gas industry) but pro-consumers, pro-taxpayers, and pro-marketplace. The bad news is that too many business leaders–and think T. Boone Pickens in this instance–are using their resources to politicize industry.

Elements of the gas industry want to use special government favor to increase demand and thus prices of their product. A quick summary of the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act was given by the Leftie group DeSmogBlog:

As stated in an earlier article, “The bill is 24-pages long and rewards [natural gas vehicles] with tax [subsidies] to help ‘drive’ consumption. The bigger the vehicle, the more tax credits given.” The bill’s main purpose is to build up a massive fueling and vehicle infrastructure for the natural gas industry, which currently does not exist in the United States.

The NAT GAS bill was written by and for natural gas insiders, chief among them energy magnate T. Boone Pickens, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, and Clean Energy Fuels CEO Andrew Littlefair — referred to in an earlier post as the “self-enriching trifecta.” The bill currently possesses 183 bipartisan co-sponsors and until finally getting a hearing Friday, had sat in the Congressional coffers since early April. [Read more →]

November 22, 2011   14 Comments

Robert Bryce Challenges Energy Statism (real energy for real people)

Robert Bryce of Austin, Texas, as he himself will tell you, is a reformed Leftie/greenie. The solar array he installed on his roof was a bust, and he followed the logic of energy density to conclude that wind, solar, water, crops, plants, and wood would not allow energy to be mankind’s master resource.

And as did Julian Simon in his day, Bryce looks at the data and science before he makes up his mind. And like Simon, he changed his mind away from neo-Malthusian notions of resource depletion and climate pessimism.

Energy Views

Bryce’s views took shape on the oil/transportation side with Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of “Energy Independence” (2008) and on electricity with Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future (2010). His encapsulated worldview about energy and energy policy can be read in his Washington Post op-ed, “Five Myths About Green Energy.”

MasterResource has profiled Bryce’s message under the title, Energy Density: Robert Bryce’s Powerful Energy Message. His is a very powerful message, beginning and ending with basic physics. It all gets back to W. S. Jevons, and it continues with Vaclav Smil, Robert Bryce, and others.

Reformed Populist

Bryce is also a reformed populist, having seen too much business in government and government in business. His book on Enron, Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron, chronicled a political company in action, although he did not then quite have the developed worldview to see how political capitalism, not market capitalism, was to blame.

Then came his second book, Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America’s Superstate (2004), where he stated on the opening page: “I’m all for business, I’m all for government. I just don’t want them to be the same thing.”

Today, Robert Bryce is the most erudite and influential energy journalist in America, with opinion-page editorials in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the Huffington Post. Morphing into a bona fide energy scholar, Bryce has respect on both sides of the political aisle and is a reason why politically correct renewable energy is now encountering a hard relook by grass-root environmentalists and open-minded Leftists. And he has the Hard Left mad! [Read more →]

November 21, 2011   3 Comments

Letter to Premier of New Brunswick on behalf of North American Platform Against Wind Power (Wind opponents, argumentation in action)

“Wind turbines are manufactured out of oil and gas, transported using oil and gas, are extremely intensive on landscapes (the cement plugs are mammoth and often require cement factories to be built nearby in order to accommodate chains of turbines in construction), are well known to cause harm to human health when sited too near (some expert physicians suggest 10 mile setbacks), and the international bird and bat kills annually are respectively estimated at eight million and sixteen million.”

Dear Honourable Premier Alward, and Honourable Minister of Energy, Mr. Leonard

Congratulations on the release of the New Brunswick Energy Blueprint.

There are many encouraging features to this thoughtful document, and it is easy to see that a generally balanced, sensible and sensitive approach has been achieved, after consulting many experts.

I would like to comment on the “renewables” section, Section Eight [pp. 20–21], which addresses, as part of your energy platform, a commitment to wind power. It is encouraging to see that wind power for your beautiful province is not celebrated as a “cornerstone technology.” It is encouraging that your report cautions about the wind’s variability, the high cost of this power, and the omnipresent need for backup.

Wind Energy (Section Nine) [p. 22] states: [Read more →]

November 21, 2011   1 Comment

Energy Subsidies vs. Energy Sense: What Have We Learned in the Past 3 Years?

The U.S. Department of Energy publishes periodic reports (see the latest) on federal government subsidies to energy production in the U.S.  These reports total up the costs of direct financial support for various energy technologies, tax incentives, research related to marketing and implementation and price support.

Federal support for energy in FY 2010 alone includes the following activities:

Direct Expenditures to Producers or Consumers – $14.3 billion. Federal programs involving direct cash outlays that provide a financial benefit to producers or consumers of energy.

Tax Expenditures – $16.3 billion. Provisions in the federal tax code that reduce the tax liability of firms or individuals who take specified actions that affect energy production, consumption, or conservation.

Research and Development (R&D) – $4.4 billion. Federal expenditures aimed at a variety of goals, such as increasing U.S. energy supplies or improving the efficiency of various energy consumption, production, transformation, and end-use technologies.

Loans and Loan Guarantees – $1.6 billion. Federal financial support for certain energy technologies.  .  .  [in particular] innovative clean energy technologies. 1

Electricity programs serving targeted categories of electricity consumers in several geographic regions of the country – $0.6 billion. Theses are primarily activities of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs), which include the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and three smaller PMAs.

Of this total of over $37 billion, about $21 billion went to energy production, the remaining $16 billion was spent on electricity transmission & distribution, conservation and efficiency and automobile programs.  This paper focuses on federal subsidies to energy production. [Read more →]

November 18, 2011   16 Comments

Think, Want Competitive Renewables: Travis Bradford gets Spacy at THE ECONOMIST

Travis Bradford, founder and president of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, joins the postmodern crusade for the affirmative motion over at The Economist magazine: “This house believes that subsidising renewable energy is a good way to wean the world off fossil fuels.” (Voting is in its last day.)

Let’s assume (not debate) that fossil fuels are unsustainable, he says. And let’s just believe that a lot of government this-or-that can make the dilute dense and the intermittent firm. Build it, and they will come … or coerce and it will all work out.

Bradford asserts at the beginning:

In an effort to refocus the debate on whether subsidies are a good way to wean the world off of fossil fuels, it might be useful to frame the alternatives instead of rehashing the same old arguments about whether we should. As the moderator says, we absolutely should—full stop. Now on to more earthly concerns.

Space Cadet?

Sadly, energy commentary is dominated by general writing filled with vague assertions and assumptions, apple and orange (or apple seed and apple orchard) and inappropriate analogies. A careful reading of Travis Bradford’s piece reveals a number of shortcomings. [Read more →]

November 17, 2011   3 Comments